“It is part of the photographer’s job to see more intensely than most people do. He must have and keep in him something of the receptiveness of the child who looks at the world for the first time or of the traveler who enters a strange country” (Bill Brandt).
WHAT WE RECEIVE IN LIFE DEPENDS, TO A LARGE EXTENT, ON HOW OPEN WE ARE. Just as the photographer in Bill Brandt’s illustration may not see his subject clearly if he doesn’t retain “the receptiveness of the child,” we may not receive some very good things because we’re not ready to receive them. All sorts of things can shut down our receptiveness: things like closed-mindedness, resistance, stubbornness, skepticism, pride, or even complacency. It takes constant work to resist these tendencies and maintain open minds and hearts, eager to receive the good things life has to offer.
Receptiveness is a trait that can be cultivated, but it takes more self-honesty than most of us are accustomed to. We must be willing to see when a lack of receptivity is hurting us and then have the humility and courage to make the necessary correction. Being receptive is, after all, frightening. It requires a certain amount of vulnerability and trust. Perhaps that is the reason so many of us no longer have “the receptiveness of the child.” Having grown up, our guard is up.
But we can’t be emotionally healthy without being open. William James often wrote about this, as when he said, “The transition from tenseness, self-responsibility, and worry, to equanimity, receptivity, and peace, is the most wonderful of all those shiftings of inner equilibrium . . . and the chief wonder of it is that it so often comes about, not by doing, but by simply relaxing and throwing the burden down.” Love is the key ingredient to health, and while love can be given, it can never be taken by force. It must be received. As Karl Menninger said, “Love cures people — both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.”
But finally, consider the importance of a point made by Judah Halevi: “Divine Providence only gives man as much as he is prepared to receive; if his receptive capacity be small, he obtains little, and much if it be great.” Closing our minds to God is the worst unreceptiveness of all. By it, we impoverish ourselves in the most tragic sense.
“So much God would give . . . so little is received” (Frances J. Roberts).